Universe

28 minutes

Neurosymphony

2 minutes

Hunting for Hockney

3 minutes

Hurricane Katrina, frame by frame

6 minutes

A woman like me

9 minutes

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Prelude to the space age – the 1960 film that inspired ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’

‘Until a generation ago, it seemed indecipherable…’

In 1960, humanity was on the cusp of achieving something momentous. After centuries of stargazing – and two decades of flying some airplanes very high – our species was finally preparing to blast through Earth’s atmosphere. The first manned space flights launched in 1961, and the first probe to fly by another planet – Mariner 2 – reached Venus in 1962. The extraordinary film Universe (1960) presents scientists’ grasp of our solar system, and the cosmos beyond, just before we took flight. From the vantage of today, much of the information is outdated – it’s no longer ‘reasonably certain’ that there’s vegetation on Mars, for instance. But the film provides remarkable insights into how far science and space exploration have taken us in just two generations, while serving as a reminder that paradigms will inevitably continue to shift in the decades to come. Beyond its history-of-science appeal, Universe also altered the course of cinema’s evolution: the film’s masterful cinematography and groundbreaking animation inspired Stanley Kubrick when he was researching his own space-traversing masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Kubrick even borrowed the voice of Universe’s narrator, Douglas Rain, for the iconic role of HAL 9000.

Directors: Roman Kroitor, Colin Low

Website: National Film Board of Canada

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See and hear the human brain as you’ve never experienced it before

The Laboratory for NeuroImaging of Coma and Consciousness (NICC) at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston studies the process of recovering consciousness after traumatic brain injuries. Using more than 100 hours of MRI scans of a human brain unaffected by neurological disease or traumatic brain injuries, a team at the NICC compiled the highest-resolution rendering of a full human brain on record, detecting objects smaller than 0.1 millimetres. Neurosymphony, exclusive to Aeon, explores three distinct perspectives on the brain, using videos of the scans made freely available by the NICC. The video pairs the imagery with an excerpt from the album Chapel by the US electronic musician and music-cognition researcher Grace Leslie, in which she converts her brainwaves into music. Beyond providing an unprecedented glimpse into the intricacies of the human brain, the NICC team hopes that these images will assist other researchers in identifying abnormalities associated with complex brain conditions such as coma and depression.

Via Kottke

Editor: Adam D’Arpino

Composer: Grace Leslie

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A dreamy animated tale of grief, friendship and a road trip to David Hockney’s house

‘You were too young to lose your mum. And we were too young to be organising a funeral.’

When her friend’s mother died, the UK filmmaker Alice Dunseath and her friend set out on an unplanned road trip through Yorkshire, mostly because they didn’t know what else to do. The only destination they gave themselves was the house of the artist David Hockney, supposedly somewhere in the town of Bridlington. Dunseath’s brief animation echoes some of Hockney’s signature stylistic flourishes, including dreamlike landscapes and saturated colours, but her narration offers an arresting counterpoint to the images – a simple, aching account of how grief can both heighten and numb the senses, render words meaningful and meaningless, and make goals simultaneously important and absurd.

Video by Alice Dunseath

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Who is ‘looting’ and who is ‘finding food’? How image gatekeepers shape the news

In August 2005, Alysia Burton Steele was just two months into her job as a photo editor on The Dallas Morning News when she decided to dispatch the photographer Irwin Thompson to New Orleans to document the impact of Hurricane Katrina. Her newspaper’s bold journalistic work went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography in 2006. In this short interview, Burton Steele describes how her team approached their coverage of the storm and its aftermath, and discusses the telling disparity between how news outlets presented African Americans and white people affected by the tragedy. This video is part of Topic’s Frame by Frame series, in which ‘celebrated photojournalists explore images of the people and events that helped shape the American experience, and discuss how working with photographs impacts them personally’.

Director: Yvonne Michelle Shirley

Producer: Jennie Bedusa

Website: Topic

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When a deafblind woman from Denmark met a woman like her in Nepal

‘I dreamt I was the deafblind woman we visited … And there was no information, nothing, just isolation.’

Sensory experience, cultural differences and degrees of privilege collide in a meeting between two deafblind women: Dorte Eriksen from Denmark and Budhi Maya Gurung from Nepal. Commissioned by the Danish Deafblind Association to document a trip to help deafblind people in Nepal, the Mexican-Danish filmmaker Isabel Morales Bondy found herself filming the two women’s remarkable encounter. A Woman Like Me is assembled entirely without spoken words. Instead, viewers get to see as if through Eriksen’s eyes and hear only what the director does as witness to the women’s language of touch. Acknowledging the opacity of this experience, Morales Bondy chose not to subtitle the women’s meeting, prompting profound questions about language, communication and human connection. 

Director: Isabel Morales Bondy

Producer: Lars Feldballe Petersen

Aeon for Friends

Find out more

Prelude to the space age – the 1960 film that inspired ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’

‘Until a generation ago, it seemed indecipherable…’

In 1960, humanity was on the cusp of achieving something momentous. After centuries of stargazing – and two decades of flying some airplanes very high – our species was finally preparing to blast through Earth’s atmosphere. The first manned space flights launched in 1961, and the first probe to fly by another planet – Mariner 2 – reached Venus in 1962. The extraordinary film Universe (1960) presents scientists’ grasp of our solar system, and the cosmos beyond, just before we took flight. From the vantage of today, much of the information is outdated – it’s no longer ‘reasonably certain’ that there’s vegetation on Mars, for instance. But the film provides remarkable insights into how far science and space exploration have taken us in just two generations, while serving as a reminder that paradigms will inevitably continue to shift in the decades to come. Beyond its history-of-science appeal, Universe also altered the course of cinema’s evolution: the film’s masterful cinematography and groundbreaking animation inspired Stanley Kubrick when he was researching his own space-traversing masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Kubrick even borrowed the voice of Universe’s narrator, Douglas Rain, for the iconic role of HAL 9000.

Directors: Roman Kroitor, Colin Low

Website: National Film Board of Canada

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